Golfers Tiger Woods, left, and Phil Mickelson speak on hole 6 during the first round of the PGA Championship in Medinah, Illinois. (Photographer: Joe Tabacca/Bloomberg News)

Tiger Woods Calls Bets Integral to Golf Before $9 Million Duel

(Bloomberg) -- In almost every way, this week’s $9 million showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will be a wild departure from golf’s traditions. In its embrace of on-course gambling, the broadcast may actually bring it closer.

Throughout the 18-hole showdown, Woods and Mickelson will be making various side bets, or “challenges” with one another. For example, can Tiger save par from that bunker, or can Phil sink that putt? Unlike the prize purse, the money wagered will come out of the players’ pockets, and winnings will be donated to charity.

Tiger Woods Calls Bets Integral to Golf Before $9 Million Duel

The first bet has already been placed -- $200,000 that Mickelson will birdie the first hole. Mickelson offered to put up $100,000 that he’d birdie the hole and Woods responded, “double it.” Speaking with Bloomberg Television on Tuesday, both golfers discussed their familiarity with gambling. Mickelson said side bets are good for training by simulating pressure. Woods called it “an integral part of the game.”

“We’ve always embraced it, Phil and I, in how we’ve taken chances on a golf course,” Woods said. “Whether it’s a weekend round with our buddies or a practice round out on tour, we’re always trying to have a little bit of an edge and have a bit of fun out there.”

The Nov. 23 event will cost $19.99, and will be available all around the AT&T Inc. ecosystem, including DirecTV, U-verse, and Turner Broadcasting’s streaming service B/R Live. Other cable and satellite operators distributing the event in the U.S. include Comcast, Charter, Cox, Verizon and Altice. Approved by the PGA Tour, the telecast will feature a number of new concepts, including coverage from drones, mics on both players at all times, and no fans on the course.

Held at a Las Vegas golf course owned by MGM Resorts International, the event will also embrace gambling in other ways. Mickelson said the telecast will feature live odds on screen, and that some fans will be able to bet shot by shot. That experience will give viewers “a glimpse of what the future of watching sports will be,” Mickelson said.

Golf is expected to benefit greatly from more widespread legal gambling, now free for U.S. states to legalize in the wake of a May Supreme Court decision. The sport could use the increased viewership, and its hole-by-hole nature lends itself well to live wagers, which are becoming the preferred type of bets. The PGA Tour, like all major U.S. sports leagues, is in the process of figuring out how much it wants to embrace the new industry.

It’s also clearly something the players do among themselves.

“Wagering is part of what we do in the game of golf,” Woods said. “It’s just enough to make it uncomfortable, or make you think about that one particular shot, or the next shot. That’s what’s going to be the fun part for everyone viewing, they’re going to realize it’s a lot like what they do at their home club.”

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